We continue with our season preview for the 12 National League teams…
SCL Tigers… always so close and yet so far. Will this be the year?
Langnau Tigers are about to start their fourth consecutive National League campaign. Needless to say that their target is to make the playoffs since they have failed to do so since their come back to the first tier of Swiss hockey.
When we talk or write about the Langnau Tigers we use an expression that in our opinoin fits this team very well: “so close, and yet so far”. Oftentimes in fact, the Tigers seem so close to achieve their goals… but, for a reason or another, they fail. Will this be the year?
The playoffs. As usual. Langnau have always improved since their National League come back. They finished 11th placed their first season… they finished 10th placed their second season… and finally, they finished 9th placed last season. So close (and yet so far) from the top-8.
Logic and the law of average would say that this may be Langnau’s lucky season. It’s not gonna be easy though. It isn’t easy for anyone. A possible exclusion from the playoffs should not be automatically synonymous with failure. Yet, the stalwart Tigers fans would deserve the satisfaction to watch again their team to play (at least) a playoffs quarterfinals series after 2011. The whole club in fact would deserve this satisfaction.
Our RS final position prediction: 8th – 10th
The system of play
Heinz Ehlers joined Langnau on October 3, 2016, to replace Scott Beattie. The improvements have been constant since his arrival. Perhaps only small improvements but constant. By now the club, the environment and the players know him very well. And over time, Heinz (oftentimes and sometimes wrongly defined a pure defensive-minded coach) tried to make his team play more attacking-minded. The point is, that the Tigers system of play is a guarantee. A strenght, no ifs no buts. Not for nothing the Tigers, regardless of the results, are an extremely tough nut to crack most of the time.
When Langnau play in front of their home crowd at the Ilfishalle, the gap with the opponents is reduced. The stalwart Tigers fans are always an arrow in the quiver for the team and these are not only empty words… it’s confirmed also by the figures. Last season Langnau had the 5th home record of the National League. Only Bern, Bienne, Lugano and Zug did better.
The “low” expectations
Paradoxically, this season expectations are lower than those of a year ago back in September 2017. There is this feeling that the team will not make the playoffs this season. This on the one hand is not good… on the other hand instead, it’s positive. The team will be able to work in peace and try to suprise a few. And maybe also to come back to play a quarterfinals series after 7 years.
On paper – and again, on paper – Langnau seem weaker than last season. The club tried to find the right man for the right place and in this regard we can say that the mission has been accomplished. However, there is no denying that most of other teams are just stronger.
The lack of “that little more”
Langnau are doing a good job in a sort of peace and calm environment. This is positive because it allows the club to survive and to guarantee itself a long-term future. However, at times it seems like that the Tigers are not able to go that extra mile… both on and off the ice. That “extra mile” in our opinion, would have allowed Langnau to make the playoffs last season. Chris DiDomenico’s arrival, or rather his return, should also be read in this sense. But will it be enough?
The roster’s lack of depth
Langnau have a decent roster but not deep enough in terms of quality. The club’s finances can’t work miracles after all. The bitter reality is, however, that a deep roster would allow to handle things better in case of injuries (see for example the current one occured to Nüssli) and/or in difficult times when you have a long streak of negative results. Those long negative streaks that, ultimately, may cost you the playoffs only for few points…
On paper Langnau seem weakened. A couple of departures are difficult to digest… Yannick-Lennart Albrecht joined EV Zug and Antti Erkinjuntti came back to native Finland after scoring 29 points in 35 games with the Tigers.
At the same time, however, the team looks more balanced. Chris DiDomenico’s return should bring “that little extra more”, energy and points. Harri Pesonen’s arrival from Lausanne instead, was probably not what the fans were hoping for… Yet, the 30 years old Finn is underestimated in our opinion. Last season he paid a high price because of Lausanne’s terrible season. But previously he did quite well, especially during the 2015-16 season when he put together 46 points in 50 games.
Finally the defense. Although without big names, the defensive department seem stronger and deeper thanks to the arrivals of Claudio Cadoneau (1 game on loan already last season), Larri Leeger and Simon Kindschi.
We mean, ok… not a great transfer session so far. But surely functional and with a focused policy. Time will tell if it’s the right way to go.
THE KEY PLAYER
He’s not loved by all… at times his behaviour is a little out of line. But Chris DiDomenico’s return should be good for Langnau. You can say what you like… but he’s a leader. A player who brings a lot of energy on the ice, he brings emotions and he even scores points. His return should help the whole environment actually. These kind of players in fact, play a crucial role especially during the key games and moments of the season.
THE POTENTIAL SURPRISE
An import player as a potential suprirse? Yep. Let’s face it… many of you probably hoped for Antti Erkinjuntti’s contract extension and are not very enthusiastic about Harri Pesonen’s arrival. Well, he’s not a “big name”. Yet, we’re talking about a player able to put together 156 points in 203 NLA games. And a player that, in our opinion, fits into Heinz Ehlers system very well. Harri can become a real added value for Langnau if placed in the right context. We mean, for us he’ll be the surprise. Even if it’s only because he’ll change the fans mind.
Oftentimes, the early stages of the season are crucial. In fact, the team has the chance to gain self-confidence. And as we all know, self-confidence is a factor that can make the difference. Even more so in such a tight league like the National League.
Langnau will welcome back Rapperswil to the National League on September 21 while the next day they’ll visit the cousins of Bern.
After that, the Tigers will play the ZSC Lions away, Ambrì-Piotta at home, Davos away, Bienne at home and Lugano away. This is a schedule that should allow Langnau to earn a dozen of points during the first 7 games and this would be important for the team’s self-confidence.
Careful though… nothing can be taken for granted. Every game will be a battle and the three home games against Rapperswil, Ambrì-Piotta and Bienne are likely to be dangerous double-edged sword.
Good luck for the season, SCL Tigers!