Nottingham Panthers 2016/17 Season Review

Another season is in the books and as is traditional the Cat’s Whiskers team give our thoughts on the hockey year just past. You can read our overall summaries of Nottingham Panthers season below as well as our thoughts on each individual member of the roster.

You can go to each individual player review by clicking on their name below

Netminders: Dan Green; Henry Pacl; Miika Wiikman
Defence: Jeff Dimmen; Steve Lee; Erik Lindhagen; Logan MacMillan; Andy Sertich; Dan Spang; Geoff Waugh
Forwards: David Clarke; Robert Lachowicz; Alex Nikiforuk; Brian McGrattan; Steven Schultz; Jeff Brown; Matt Carter; Chris Lawrence; Robert Farmer; Brad Moran; Ollie Betteridge; Jason Williams; Deiveds Sarkanis

Here are the season summaries from all The Cat’s Whiskers team

Paul Balm
The play-off final was some game wasn’t it? Four and a half periods of ice hockey that ebbed and flowed from one end of the ice to the other as control over the game shifted back and forth between the Steelers and the Devils as they fought for the right to lift the last piece of silverware of the 2016/17 season. I also found, if I’m honest, the whole spectacle pretty depressing because it showed everything that has been missing from the Nottingham Panthers this season. Both teams gave it their all, there was fight, drive, passion and a willingness to win, to be the first to the puck from both sides that we have seen very rarely from our own team. You could see why we finished mid-table when you compared ourselves to them. If we had made the finals either of those teams playing like that would have destroyed us. As I left the Arena on Sunday I heard a Panthers fan say that Sheffield didn’t deserve it. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at how wrong they were.

We finished mid-table for a reason, a very simple reason. We were not good enough. It’s as simple as that. Other teams improved and we didn’t. We took a team that finished fifth last season, re-signed half of it, signed players (seemingly) to fit around one individual who, frankly isn’t worthy of that honour and didn’t match the improvements across the league and we got what we deserved. OK, you could cite injuries but we didn’t deal with them particularly well either, players who were out injured for large parts of the season were not replaced because players of the “right fit” weren’t out there yet, other teams managed it. When Mosienko left Sheffield they managed to sign Hagos after a few days but there seemed to be weeks of inactivity from the Panthers. Maybe they should spend more time on rectifying situations like this and less time on excuses and spin.

It’s been a hard season to take one way and another. There have been highlights. The Continental Cup being the chief amongst them but that was an almost singular ray of light in what has felt like a dark period of time. This team should be lauded for that but I think as time goes on there will be little fondness for the Panthers class of 2016/17. They may be history makers but I don’t think history will be kind to them.

Jono Bullard
A season that had the shining light of becoming the first British team to win the Continental Cup, but aside from that the season was a massive disappointment on the domestic front.

The achievement of winning in Europe shouldn’t overlooked or understated (as many have tried to do). It was a massive feat to win the competition and its importance to the team and British hockey was huge, but the league and cup performances in the Elite League fell well short of acceptable for a club of this size.

Corey Neilson has rightly taken responsibility for the team he recruited but some of those players need to take a long hard look at themselves and ask if they really gave everything they could this season. We, as fans, know many of them didn’t. Will they admit as much to themselves I wonder?

Hopefully in the future the 2016/17 season will be remembered solely for winning the Continental Cup, but as the dust settles I feel that, for the near future at least, this season will be remembered as one of failure.

Andy Haywood
Well, where has that season gone? To be honest it’s been an odd one that has gone from the sublime to the ridiculous a fair bit.
Some months dragged like hell, some months flew by. We were poor, we were great, we were poor again, we were better, we were unlucky then the season finished and by the time it had finished it pretty much summed up my feelings on this team… Just about average.

Take the majority of the games we played against Sheffield this season. We had some success but at the end of the day more often than not they were just that bit better than us, as the scorelines would suggest, losing by the odd goal here or there.

We have played the majority of the season short benched, no matter who is to blame for that, the fact of the matter is we didn’t play nearly enough games with nearly enough players. Add to that the amount of games we played this year and all of a sudden it’s hardly a surprise we were short at times.

Overall my summing up will be that we were poor, then we were great, then we were bang average for the remainder of the season. Before our very brief stint of great hockey again in the post season.

We won the Continental Cup, remember that? It is something that we should cherish for a very long time but unfortunately it was forgotten about all too quickly because of the abject performances from then on.

All in all it wasn’t a good season, but other than Cardiff (best team in the league) and the playoff winner Sheffield, I’d say that winning something is better than not, and that means there are 7 other teams in the league that I consider had a worse season than us.

Antoine Marie-Jeanne
“Any time you win a trophy, the season should be considered a success” – Paul Adey.

Panthers historic Continental Cup win in January will unfortunately be massively over-shadowed by what has been a complete and utter shambles of a domestic campaign. Injuries galore and a failure to replace long-term injured players hasn’t helped, but I also think the recruitment of the team wasn’t great from the outset.

The vast majority of the team just weren’t consistent enough (or maybe they were consistent and the one off games (like the 8-0 thrashing of Cardiff) were freak occurrences). We’ve not been very “sexy” this season have we?

Balance wise I thought our defence was too lightweight and there was nobody who you could class as a proper stay-at-home d-man (the departure of Kudroc was a real blow). Offensively everyone is a bit samey – no-one really stands out as a dangerous offensive threat. Additionally, losing Matthew Myers and then Sam Oakford leaves us very limited in the Brit department.

I will cherish the memory of our win in Europe and the Panthers (and EIHL as a whole) should be proud, and I hope it leads to more success for British clubs abroad going forwards, but I’m glad to see the back of this season.

As always, next season brings the hope that there will be changes – we’ll sign a younger and fitter squad according to the coach. We’ll also apparently have a full-time strength and conditioning coach and apparently all the players will have to be here for training camp at the start of August – according to our owner. All promising noises, we shall see what is delivered.

Roll on 2017/18.

Adam Reddish
What an odd season to reflect on. Winning the Continental Cup should have signalled wild celebrations for the history-makers in their homecoming; but typically in true Panthers-style, a duff home performance against Fife, culminating in a 2-3 defeat helped to half clear the NIC before the cup/tray was brought out onto the ice for the fans to share in the glory. A flat, anti-climax of an event really, but totally in-keeping with what eventually developed into an extremely flat domestic campaign.

The 16-17 season brought new hopes that the club would wake from its recent dismal league showings and once more mount a serious title challenge. But for me, the writing was quickly on the wall throughout the last off-season with so many of the 15-16 Panthers roster returning; either as a result of multi-year deals, or re-signed as consequence of playing their part in securing a welcome Play Off title win.

Lack of offensive punch undid Panthers time-after-time. Yet again, the glaring lack of a sniper who you’d bet your mortgage on grabbing 35-40 goals during a season left us short up front. The forwards at Neilson’s disposal largely worked hard (Jeff Brown never took a shift off), but other than a few notable occasions (Manchester and Coventry were hit for eight at home as well as the freakish 8-0 shut-out of Devils on their own ice), were distinctly ordinary and lacked that vital ability to really bully teams out of games.

Without an offensively-minded set of forwards, our assembled defence also creaked under the pressure of having to keep things tight on the blue line. If ever there was a need for a couple of high calibre stay-at-home D-men to keep Panthers in low-scoring games it was now. Sadly though, Neilson couldn’t call upon any players fitting that bill. Most games this season saw the defence make blunders gifting sides’ easy goals, and the fact that Erik Lindhagen, a forward by trade, proved himself in my opinion to be the best blueliner on the roster speaks volumes about how this season panned out.

The netminding situation was equally as frustrating as the other two disciplines. Miika Wiikman came to his team’s rescue more times than I care to remember and turned in a number of exceptional displays between the pipes. His injury in the first half of the season led the club to recruit the popular, but inexperienced Jindrich Pacl. When called upon, he didn’t let the team or fans down; but it was clear that he was no match for Wiikman in terms of ability and this became clearer as the season progressed. It was ironic, in a sad way, to see Panthers third-choice netminder Dan Green finish the season in net at Sheffield. An honest pro who has shown loyalty to the club, but it’s clear he doesn’t have the required skill levels to back-up an import netminder. Mind you, Green’s not alone in this respect in not cutting the mustard. A good number of those pulling on the black and gold this season need to have a long, hard think over the summer about the role they’ve contributed in this rather polarised season.

I’ll attempt to finish on a high note. Whilst a thoroughly miserable domestic campaign was finally extinguished at the hands of Guillaume Desbiens’s quarter-final OT winner in Sheffield Arena, a cup was won this season. Whilst I don’t have a great deal of good things to say about the Panthers 16/17 roster, they have at least written themselves into the history books as the first British side to win a European competition. Whatever my strong views of this team, that special feat cannot and should not be ignored.

My personal hope is that the side we’ve watched this season is subjected to a huge overhaul by Corey Neilson, and that when Panthers take to the ice at the start of the 2017-18 campaign, very few of those who have caused us so much frustration over the last seven months are once again seen performing on the NIC ice.

Tina Taylor
We made history, bemoan it and dismiss it all you like but we were the first British team to win the Continental Cup but it’s a damn shame that the success was tainted by another poor domestic season. Another season where we didn’t challenge for the league, we didn’t fight hard enough for our ‘beloved’ Challenge Cup and Play Off weekend was more about who you don’t want to win it than who you do. The final was an absolute belter and I would have loved to have been talking about how well Panthers had played and battled in that most epic final but the fact of the matter is that we just weren’t good enough and I doubt the Panthers team of the 16/17 season would have had the drive and passion to produce a performance worthy of that game.

We’ve had passengers, rumours of inappropriate off-ice activities and another year that has seen a busy treatment table but we’ve had some good games, some surprising results and a couple of memorable moments but essentially I don’t think I’ll be remembering this team as a whole with an awful lot of fondness.
Corey Neilson has taken the blame for the recruitment but also cites guys who were ‘checking out mentally and physically’ following the Continental Cup stages, he also promises a major overhaul and ‘a younger, hungrier group’ for next season but I suppose we’ll have to wait and see. As the saying goes Panthers fans, there’s always next year!

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