HC FRIBOURG GOTTÉRON – Analysis of the 2018-19 season
There is a “Before Christ” and an “After Christ”… that’s changed history for the believers. When it comes to Fribourg Gottéron and their 2018-19 season instead, there is a “Before November 17th” and an “After November 17th”.
On November 17th, 2018, Fribourg Gottéron hosted Langnau and earned a 10-3 win. Despite the fact that the game was more balanced than the 10-3 final score suggests, it was nevertheless a great win and a huge confidence booster. Especially given that the Dragons, before that game against the Tigers, were coming off 11 wins in 15 games.
And instead, with hindsight, that win was the beginning of the end. Mark French’s troops lost 6 of the 7 following games. And in fact, that negative run set the tone for a second part of the season that was not good enough to make the playoffs.
Overall, we can’t say that it’s been a catastrophic season for Fribourg. The team earned only 3 points less compared to the previous season, after all. But the truth, the only truth, is that the Dragons finished the Regular Season 9th placed and were forced to play, to widespread indifference, a meaningless Ranking Round.
The whole, in a season that should have been better than the last one. We had a lot of expectations for Fribourg Gottéron… Mark French’s troops were already good during the 2017-18 season and even reinforced themselves in view of the 2018-19 season. We mean, we were and still are convinced that this team could have played the role of the outsider this season.
Still… be it because of the fact that the National League was extremely balanced… be it because of the fact that Fribourg made too many mistakes… Gottéron weren’t able to gift their fans with a memorable season.
These thing happen. The important part is, to bounce back immediately.
THE REGULAR SEASON
Gottéron got off to a poor start of the season and lost the first three games. Then instead, until mid-November, that is until that ominous 10-3 home win against Langnau, the performances were good and the results too. The Dragons were even 3rd placed at some point. We mean, it looked like everything would be fine this year. Wrong… during the second part of the seasons in fact, Gottéron had way too many ups and downs and finally missed the playoffs.
It might have no value… but to sum up, Fribourg Gottéron were the ones who earned more points during this meaningless Ranking Round and therefore “officially” finished their season 9th placed. 4 wins, 2 losses including one after shootouts. At the very least the team reacted during this post-season.
Let’s see few things that in our opinion worked well and few things that didn’t work at all.
Let’s face it, Fribourg Gottéron have been a pleasure to watch during the first two months of the season. If we exclude the first three games in fact, the Dragons have been able to win and even to deliver some great performances. We mean, it looked like Fribourg were laying the foundations for an excellent season.
Face-offs weren’t a problem for Fribourg Gottéron who finished the Regular Season with the best face-offs efficiency of the National League (55.71%). Among the players who took face-offs the most, only Laurent Meunier had an efficiency slightly lower than 50.0%.
5 vs 5 play
Fribourg Gottéron were among the best in the league when it comes to goals scored and conceded in 5 vs 5 situations. In fact, only Lugano and Zug were better. It’s safe to say that, especially defensively, Fribourg Gottéron were very solid and a tough nut to crack when the teams were playing even numbers.
Mark French’s troops had an excellent away record. Only Zug, Bern and Langnau Tigers had a better away record. That’s not bad, actually it’s very good. We mean, despite everything, a good away record is synonymous with strong personality and ability to withstand the opponents’ pressure.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
It’s wrong to say that Fribourg Gottéron have been catastrophic after November 17th… but the truth is that everything that before was fine, then started to go south. The pucks that before were going in the net, then started to hit the post or go wide. The tight wins became tights defeats. And so on. Put it the way you want, but something has changed after November 17th, 2018. In negative terms, ça va sans dire.
Power-play & Penalty-killing
Fribourg Gottéron were the worst team of the league during power-play situation and were also the worst penalty killers. These are facts, points. During power-play situations, the Dragons were way too cumbersome. When shorthanded instead, they were way too vulnerable. That’s strange though… we mean, we all remember that during the 2017-18 season Mark French’s guys were among the best penalty killers of the league!
As we said, Gottéron had the 4th best away record of the National League. At the same time, however, they even had only the 10th home record. Only Davos and Rapperswil earned less points at home than Fribourg Gottéron. The BCF Arena was supposed to be a fort where the Dragons could earn those extra points to make the playoffs… the truth was, instead, that especially during the second part of the season (8 losses in the last 13 home games) it was painful for the Dragons to play in front of their fans.
Despite everything, all Gottéron needed to make the playoffs was one more win. And then, the last two games of the Regular Season played against the bottom of the table Rapperswil come to our mind. Back at the end of January, a key game, Fribourg lost 3-0 in Rapperswil. On February 10th then, another key game, Fribourg suffered a 1-4 home defeat. We mean… all the games are important. But Gottéron should have won those two. It’s as simple as that.
At times we had the impression that not enough players were bringing in the right amount of physical play. We’re not saying that Mark French’s guys should have started to slash other players at random… we’re not saying that they should have assaulted the opponents either… yet, a bit more of physical play wouldn’t have hurt.
THE 3 STARS OF THE SEASON
Finally Julien Sprunger had a season without injuries. He played 50 Regular Season games out of 50… dear god, it’s almost beyond belief! And in fact, most of the time, Julien delivered some excellent performances. He was the leader on ice, he tallied 38 points (20 goals, 18 assists) and he never, but never, gave up!
Contrary to Julien Sprunger, Jonas Holos is not that kind of a player who makes it into the scoresheet very often. But in fact, he prevents the opponents from making it! The Norwegian defenseman is the perfect picture of the solid defensive defenseman. When it comes to defensive defensemen, Jonas was surely among the best of the National League!
Reto Berra wasn’t able to lead Gottéron to the playoffs… but it wasn’t certainly his fault. Actually, oftentimes his performances were good to say the least. Moreover, we expect him to increase his level of play next season. We mean, goalie is not a problem for Fribourg.
Laurent Meunier played the last season of his career… and just like always, he gave it all from start to finish. He even scored a goal during the Ranking Round. Unfortunately, he couldn’t play the last playoffs of his career… it’s a pity. He would have deserved that.
THE SPECIAL MENTION
Philipp Furrer collected only 25 appearances this season because of injuries. And the truth is, that Fribourg Gottéron desperately missed him for the other 25 games. Unfortunately, in our opinion, his absence is one of the main reason why the Dragons missed the playoffs.
THE SEASON IN NUMBERS – THE STATS
GOALS FOR & GOALS AGAINST
Overall and as a trend during the Regular Season, Gottéron conceded way too many goals during the first part of the games. This means that oftentimes the Dragons were forced to chase their opponents and this is never a good thing… It’s interesting to have a look also at the chart of the development of goals scored and conceded during the Regular Season. Gottéron, thanks to some real character, were able many times to comeback… but then, also many times, they paid a high price for their efforts as it can be seen at the peak of goals conceded in the last 10 minutes of play.
SHOTS & SHOTS AGAINST
Overall, Gottéron shot more than their opponents during the Regular Season and shot slightly less during the Ranking Round. Also in this case, however, it’s interesting to have a look at the chart of the shots per period of play during the Regular Season… As a trend, Fribourg Gottéron shot more than their opponents as the games went on.
SCORING & SAVING PERCENTAGE
Fribourg Gottéron’s scoring percentage was only decent during the Regular Season and then very good during the Ranking Round. The overall saving percentage instead, was good during the Regular Season and excellent during the Ranking Round.
POWER-PLAY & PENALTY-KILLING
Here is THE problem of Gottéron’s season. They had the worst power-play and were the worst penalty killers. During the meaningless Ranking Round then, the power-play efficiency increased… but it was just too late.
When it comes to puck possession, it’s safe to say that Gottéron were never outplayed by their opponents. Actually, quite the contrary. Mark French’s troops percentage of puck possession was good.
We were and still are convinced that Fribourg Gottéron could have had a good season. And it’s also fair to say that in the end, they missed the playoffs at the last gasp and that this season was extremely balanced… however, the only truth is that there were 8 other teams out there who made it to the post-season and this is painful.
What was missing then to have success? Not much, really… hockey is a sport made of details and the details were not in Fribourg’s favour. Moreover, several players – naming no names – should have performed better.
Last season the Dragons improved a lot and we were even in favour of Mark French’s contract extension. He’s a coach that, we think, is the right man for the job even though this season the team was catastrophic during power-play situations and the players were not good penalty killers.
Last season was supposed to be basis for coming back to success. And instead, it wasn’t the case. Even though, it’s also fair to say, the Dragons earned overall only 3 points less than 12 months ago.
We mean, it’s been a negative season overall. But a catastrophic one? No, frankly speaking, we don’t think so. Surely it’s been a season to take a lesson from. For the future.
A future that, in our opinion, doesn’t look that bad. Fribourg Gottéron have a decent roster to restart. If they can add the right import players, they can be an outsider again next season. Obiously, hoping that there won’t be any November 17th, again…
Enjoy your holiday, Fribourg Gottéron!