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We continue with our season preview for the 12 National League teams…

Fribourg Gottéron… further progress is expected!

Fribourg Gottéron 2017-18’s season came to an end at the quarterfinals stage against the future finalist Lugano. Put it like that, it doesn’t seem like much of an accomplishment. But instead, the result must be contextualized. All the more so when we talk about the Dragons and their recent past.

Mark French’s arrival has been a turning point. At first off the ice and then on the ice. The 47 years old Canadian coach brought a new attitude that has stabilized the environment and turned out to be a winning move. The right man in the right place at the right time.

Last season he had three major tasks. Number one: restore the team’s confidence. Number two: bring back the fighting spirit. Number three: to stabilize the defense. Well, three missions accomplished. And who knows… perhaps without a couple of injuries of key players, Gottéron could have gone further.

THE TARGET

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To qualify for the playoffs first of all. After that, anything can happen. A semi-final, however, would be a great achievement. Fribourg Gottéron must continue to grow to be ready for the opening (supposedly in July 2020) of their new arena.

Meanwhile, the team must consolidate its position among the top 8 and turn every stone and even more to go as far as possible. The team built by Christian Dubé, the club and the coach, is very interesting and has all it takes to do well. It actually can become a sensation.

Our RS final position prediction: 5th – 9th

THE STRENGHTS

Mark French and his staff

Mark French is one of Gottéron’s strengths. Congratulation to who appointed him and to him who’s been able to change things around in Fribourg after a couple of disappointing seasons. The Canadian coach won the club’s heart from the start. So far, as we said, he has mostly thought about stabilizing the defense (last season, Gottéron ended with the best defensive record of the last 5 years). Moreover, he’s been able to change the players attitude. We are now almost certain that he wants his team to be more pro-active and offensive while maintaining the defensive solidity and spirit of self-sacrifice put on display last season. In this respect, unfortunately, Rathgeb and Cervenka’s departures  are not helping him… Anyway, the club is thinking about a contract extentions for French. In our opinion, it would be the right move.

The defense

On paper, Fribourg Gottéron significantly strengthen their defense compared to last season. Reto Berra finally joined the club a year later and will replace (for the best) the “crazy” (with all due respect) Barry Brust… Moreover, Philippe Furrer and Noah Schneeberger’s arrivals bring quality and quantity. Without forgetting Sandro Forrer, of course. We mean, the Dragons on paper can count on a rock solid defence. Goalie included.

Positivity

Back on the eve of last season it was difficult to judge Fribourg Gottéron. The team was coming off the playouts and there were many question marks. Well, they’ve been wiped out! The environment was almost depressed but soon started to appreciate the Dragons new attitude. This year we mean, there is positivity and there is confidence around the team compared to 12 months ago… A calmer environment, and positivity, also means more self-confidence and a stronger mindset. And we all know that a strong minded team can work wonders and reduce the technical gap with the other teams.

THE WEAKNESSES

The attack

Fribourg Gottéron seem to have a rock solid defense. We’ve said that already. The forwards department instead, without Cervenka and Rathgeb seems weaker. In fact, on paper, the team is less attacking minded than last season despite the presence in the roster of very good forwards like Bykov, Rossi and Mottet. The hope is, however, that Julien Sprunger can remain fit (only 25 appearances for him last season, playoffs included). It’s true that a single player can’t make the difference… But the Dragons cannot do without their Captain for half of the season.

Lack of experience

In our opinion, Fribourg Gottéron paid a high price because of the lack of experience last season. Both on and off the ice. Especially during the quarterfinals series against Lugano. In this regard, Jim Slater injury right on the eve of the postseason didn’t help. It’s normal though, after a couple of disappointing seasons, to loose the necessary experience to battle for the big targets. The problem is, that most of the times it takes a few years to rebuild a winning mindset. Both on and off the ice. That winning mindset that helps you to go all the way… Last season already taught a lot. Will it be enough?

No more element of surprise

Last season Fribourg Gottéron ended 5th placed almost by accident… but the playoffs have been deserved in every way. Also thanks to the element of surprise… Mark French’s arrival, a new attitude… these factors in fact, allowed the team to turn things around. It was also some kind of novelty bounce. Well, this won’t be the case this season. Expectations are slightly higher, that means that also the pressure will be higher in case of negative results. All together, this season is gonna be a litmus test for the Dragons. It will tell them if they’re going the right way.

THE TRANSFERS

Yannick Rathgeb and Roman Cervenka’s departures are difficult to digest and the two players are impossible to replace. In our opinion, however, Fribourg Gottéron are now more balanced.

The new forward Andrew Miller has all it takes to do well in the National League. Lukas Lhotak is not the big name but the club is sure that he is a good addition. What to say then about Noah Schneeberger and Marco Forrer? They bring stability and solidity.

And don’t worry… we haven’t forgotten about Philippe Furrer. A top class defenseman! In fact, he can bring Gottéron’s defense to a new level. Just like Reto Berra. The latter could’ve gotten on the shores of the Sarine already a year ago. It would have been a godsend.

THE KEY PLAYER

Philippe Furrer

We firmly believe that Philippe Furrer is the best defensive defenseman in Switzerland. And we don’t think we’re wrong. There are doubts because they say he’s injury-prone… People forget, however, that Furrer played 36 Regular Season game on average during the last 4 seasons. But most and above all, he never missed a playoffs game in this period of time! Not only Philippe adds quality to the team. But he also adds experience and an impressive professionalism on and off the ice. He can become the Dragons leader!

THE POTENTIAL SURPRISE

Lukas Lhotak

Lukas Lhotak is not the big name. The club invested in him and can be right or wrong. However, Lukas Lhotak is also a player who’s been able to score 30 goals during the last 3 Regular Seasons while playing for Ambrì-Piotta. We mean, he knows how to score. From the outside, one can say that he always lacked of consistency. Yet, if Mark French can find the perfect role for him and gives him confidence, we’re pretty sure that Lukas Lhotak can become a sensation.

THE SCHEDULE

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.

Ready, steady… boom! Between September 21 and 22, within a time frame of less than 24 hours, Fribourg Gottéron will host Lausanne and then will visit Genève Servette. One thing is sure, it will take no time to Mark French’s troops to jump right in the season.

After that, the Dragons will host Zug, will travel to Bienne, will host the newly-promoted side Rapperswil, will travel to Davos, will host the ZSC Lions and will travel to Langnau. This schedule gives you mixed feelings… On paper, chances are good that Gottéron will be off to a good start of the season and will earn some points during the first 8 games. And this would be a godsend both for the club and players morale.

Good Luck for the season, Fribourg Gottéron!

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