Elite League Questions: Flames, Storm, Panthers, Steelers

Adam Brady gave the Nottingham Panthers an early lead in an exhibition game last week (Image: Dean Woolley)

Everything is changing in the Elite League, with a constant trickle of players joining and leaving clubs across the country. And we have a few questions.

The Guildford Flames lost star defender Jamal Watson over the summer, forcing head coach Paul Dixon into free agency in search of an attacking defender.

Meanwhile at Altrincham, the Manchester Storm have promoted Ryan Finnerty to general manager, while outgoing goalkeeper Matt Ginn has become head coach.

There has also been a rebuild in the East Midlands, with the Nottingham Panthers hiring Omar Pasha as CEO and appointing Gary Graham as head coach.

In the north, the Sheffield Steelers are aiming to bounce back from a disappointing end to last season.

Elite League Questions: Flames, Storm, Panthers, Steelers

That being said, British ice hockey has a burning question for Guildford, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield. Let’s dig into it.

Guildford Flames: Can Paul Dixon build on last year’s success?

Guildford upset the Panthers in the quarter-finals to clinch their ticket to the playoff finals weekend last season.

Dixon’s challenge, then, is to build on another successful season at Surrey, but he will have to do so without Watson – who has produced 51 points (14 goals, 37 assists) in 54 appearances in 2021-22. The Canadian joined HC Innsbruck over the summer, leading the Flames to sign Team GB defender Ben O’Connor to replace him.

Elite League polls Flames - Jamal Watson, Guildford Flames (Image: John Uwins)
Elite League Q&A: How will the Guildford Flames cope without Jamal Watson? (Photo: John Uwins)

“We want his ability in the line-up of course, but we also want to be able to use his wealth of experience, both domestically and internationally, to enhance our dressing room culture as we look to challenge a bit harder against some of the best in the game. league. teams,” Dixon said of the two-time Elite League champion.

The arrival of Daniel Tedesco could also be a game-changer for Guildford: the Italy international had 68 points (24 goals, 44 assists) in 39 appearances in the Alps Hockey League last season and adds spice to the top six of Dixon.

It’s a big year for the Flames: will they progress further or fall back?

Manchester Storm: how will Matt Ginn adapt to coaching?

Ginn is part of furniture in Manchester. He joined the Storm in 2018 and went on to make 121 league appearances for the club.

However, the Canadian was forced out by injury and is entering the new season behind the bench.

“I’m excited, this is a great opportunity and I can’t wait to get started: I couldn’t say no,” Ginn said shortly after his promotion announcement. “I love it here, I love Manchester and the fans are great so it was easy to come back.”

The Elite League questions the flames - Image: Matt Ginn, Manchester Storm (Image: All <a class=Sports Photography)” width=”830″ height=”553″ srcset=”https://749396.smushcdn.com/1305984/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/3O9A5187.webp?lossy=1&strip=1&webp=1 830w, https://749396.smushcdn.com/1305984/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/3O9A5187-300×200.webp?lossy=1&strip=1&webp=1 300w, https://749396.smushcdn.com/1305984/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/3O9A5187-768×512.webp?lossy=1&strip=1&webp=1 768w” src=”https://749396.smushcdn.com/1305984/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/3O9A5187.webp?lossy=1&strip=1&webp=1″ data-sizes=”(max-width: 830px) 100vw, 830px” class=”wp-image-217277 size-full lazyload”/>
Elite League Q&A: How will Matt Ginn fare as rookie head coach? (Image: All Sports Photography)

But last season was not positive for the Storm. They’ve finished six wins outside of the playoffs and are desperate to bounce back this time around.

“It was tough, it was disappointing throughout…it just wasn’t up to our standards,” Ginn explained. “We are looking to put that in the rear view mirror and move forward. We hope to bring a winning culture this year and make it a fun to watch, fast and exciting and high performing team.

He talks, but will the 31-year-old walk?

Nottingham Panthers: will the reconstruction of Omar Pasha pay off?

It’s been a busy summer at Motorpoint Arena. Pacha’s fingerprints span all aspects of the franchise, with Nottingham adding strength and depth to the entire organisation. But will the reconstruction pay off in the first year?

The Panthers endured a topsy-turvy preseason. Sheffield beat them twice (4-5, 3-4) to start the campaign, but they bounced back at the Skydome Arena with a 4-1 victory over Coventry Blaze.

Alex Dubeau, Nottingham Panthers (Image: Scott Wiggins)
Elite League Q&A: How will Omar Pasha’s new-look Nottingham Panthers progress in the first year of the rebuild? (Photo: Scott Wiggins)

“In all the years I’ve coached, I’ve never seen such a crowd in an exhibition game,” Graham said of his home debut. “I came away very impressed – the energy and excitement was great. And also hearing that there were a lot of new fans in the building means a lot to us.

Nottingham were disappointing last season. They finished fourth with 55 points, 17 wins behind Adam Keefe’s Belfast Giants.

Although it will take a Herculean effort to overturn the deficit, the Panthers are in better shape this time around and should at least be in title contention. On the Bolero square, the atmosphere rises.

Sheffield Steelers: Is Aaron Fox’s Side Lift Silverware?

Sheffield’s last campaign was devastated by injuries in the second half of the season, disrupting Aaron Fox’s side over time and in the playoffs. But they should be better this time.

Sheffield Steelers head coach Aaron Fox is Photography)” width=”1200″ height=”799″ srcset=”https://749396.smushcdn.com/1305984/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/b25lY21zOjg5MmQwNmY3LWNhZjItNDUxZi1iZjQ0LTBjM2I4YTA1MzMxOTo2NmQyOGU2NC1kODJkLTQ3ZDMtODVhMy03NDVhNGRkYzdkYjk.jpg?lossy=1&strip=1&webp=1 1200w, https://749396.smushcdn.com/1305984/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/b25lY21zOjg5MmQwNmY3LWNhZjItNDUxZi1iZjQ0LTBjM2I4YTA1MzMxOTo2NmQyOGU2NC1kODJkLTQ3ZDMtODVhMy03NDVhNGRkYzdkYjk-300×200.jpg?lossy=1&strip=1&webp=1 300w, https://749396.smushcdn.com/1305984/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/b25lY21zOjg5MmQwNmY3LWNhZjItNDUxZi1iZjQ0LTBjM2I4YTA1MzMxOTo2NmQyOGU2NC1kODJkLTQ3ZDMtODVhMy03NDVhNGRkYzdkYjk-1024×682.jpg?lossy=1&strip=1&webp=1 1024w, https://749396.smushcdn.com/1305984/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/b25lY21zOjg5MmQwNmY3LWNhZjItNDUxZi1iZjQ0LTBjM2I4YTA1MzMxOTo2NmQyOGU2NC1kODJkLTQ3ZDMtODVhMy03NDVhNGRkYzdkYjk-768×511.jpg?lossy=1&strip=1&webp=1 768w” src=”https://749396.smushcdn.com/1305984/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/b25lY21zOjg5MmQwNmY3LWNhZjItNDUxZi1iZjQ0LTBjM2I4YTA1MzMxOTo2NmQyOGU2NC1kODJkLTQ3ZDMtODVhMy03NDVhNGRkYzdkYjk.jpg?lossy=1&strip=1&webp=1″ data-sizes=”(max-width: 1200px) 100vw, 1200px” class=”size-full wp-image-216925 lazyload”/>
Elite League Q&A: Will Aaron Fox lead the Sheffield Steelers to the promised land in 2022-23? (Image: Mark/All Sports Photography)

The Steelers retained most of their core, but also added quality in 31-year-old winger Daniel Ciampini and 30-year-old defenseman Matt Petgrave. Fox also reformed its babysitting department, replacing Rok Stojanovic and Barry Brust with Matthew Greenfield and Oscar Östlund.

There is a sense of quiet optimism in Sheffield, especially after opening the pre-season with back-to-back wins over Nottingham. But is this team a real title contender? Time will tell us.

About Julius Southworth

Check Also

Can South Carolina repeat? Will UConn’s Elite Eight race end?

The NCAA women’s basketball season kicked off Monday and featured a Top 25 tilt with …