THE IMPOSSIBLE CHOICE
We’re at the time of year where we start to consider who should be among the honours for player of the year as the campaign reaches its crescendo – but one category could stump a few people.
Coach of the Year is one that could be a hard one to call in these final few and I suppose it’s fair to say a lot can still happen, but taking a step back, it’s hard to judge one above all others in a season where a few can have a good case for it.
Last year, Andrew Lord, Adam Keefe, Ryan Finnerty and Corey Neilson stood out for their respective achievements with their clubs domestically and in Neilson’s case, in Europe, but the field this year could be even harder with the candidates there are.
Lord and Keefe should be in there again, depending on where the championship trophy ends up. Cardiff’s repeat of their previous two title wins would be unprecedented and only losing their grip on it would take him out of the running.
Keefe would have been there regardless after yesterday’s Challenge Cup Final win and the fact they came so close in the Continental Cup earlier this year. Add to that, the fact they’ve maintained a title challenge after slipping away from consideration 12 months ago.
Among the other candidates will be Pete Russell for how he has revitalised Glasgow Clan after such a poor campaign last year. It was a rocky start, with results not going their way, but since knocking Cardiff out of the Challenge Cup, Clan have climbed to third and route to the play-offs much more assured.
Another one for consideration is Guildford Flames’ Paul Dixon, who hasn’t so much slightly improved them, but they’ve really come on a bundle this year after a first season which was considered a success in its own right.
Flames have built on that and convincing players such as Ackered, Craige, Reddick, Dunbar and Watters to stay another year has been a masterstroke as that continuity has been the basis of their success this season.
The Patton Conference was won for their first ever Elite League honour and that was quickly followed by the reaching of the Challenge Cup Final. The fact they lost it in the context of their overall progress shouldn’t matter when it comes to considering this.
All four named above have are the strongest candidates for the award this year so who indeed lands the award will be deserving. Question is, who will it be?
NEILSON SHOWS LIFE AFTER PANTHERS
Speaking of Coach of the Year, a huge congratulations to former Nottingham Panthers coach Corey Neilson, who has collected the award in Germany’s DEL 2 for his work with Lausitzer Füchse.
Since taking them over this season, they’ve gone from the lower reaches of the division into the play-offs and look far healthier than they did when he arrived.
Neilson has had to rely on a lot of younger players to get them there, but it’s paid off as he shows off his credentials in Germany.
It’s great to see a former Elite League alumni achieve on the continent and hope to see more of it really soon.
CHALLENGE CUP FINAL UNDERVALUED?
Firstly, a massive congratulations to Belfast Giants on winning the Challenge Cup in Cardiff yesterday. It was another wonderful occasion that showcased the Elite League in all its glory.
There are a few things I’d like to get off my chest about certain logistical things, but the biggest thing that annoyed me was the scheduling of other Elite League games on the same day.
While appreciating for some clubs being limited by the dates they can take, surely Challenge Cup Final Sunday can be one they can leave for one night and allow all the focus on the big game.
Moving the game to a one-off in a neutral* venue was a great step in the right direction, but having it clash with other games going on around the country takes the shine off it.
It’s only one date in the year where two teams should play and the others take a night off. If we want to really make it an occasion, then treat it like one.
*not always the case