ZSC LIONS – Analysis of the 2018-19 season
The ZSC Lions were the title holders… they even reinforced the team last summer and were expected to have a great season… and instead, when the chips were down, the Lions missed the playoffs at the last gasp and were forced to play a meaningless, as much as annoying, Ranking Round.
You might put it that way: things can’t be expected to turn out right every time!
The Lions had all the best ingredients, the best chefs, the best feelings, the best intentions… when it was time to check the turkey in the oven, however, it came out it was tasteless. The club even tried to change the “chef” when the turkey was halfway through… but it wasn’t enough.
For the whole season, we all have thought that there was not much to be worried about. One way or another, Zürich would made the playoffs and then would become a tough nut to crack. Just like last season. The problem is that maybe, even if only subconsciously, also the players and the club were thinking the same way… and that, if they had thought like that, is a perfect recipe for disaster!
To sum up, it’s been a negative season. It was supposed to be a great one but turned out to be a slow death… a slow death made of way too many downs and only few ups. The team never had a long winning run that would have allowed the players to enter a positive spiral… and finally, the ZSC Lions also failed the last test, the one of Genève that would have allowed the Lions to make it at the last gasp to the playoffs.
Right now, there is no point crying over split milk. It’s time to put this darn season behind that literally made the ZSC Lions fall from grace… It’s time to learn the lesson and then come back in September, as famished as ever. Just like real Lions do!
THE REGULAR SEASON
It all started with a 1-2 home overtime defeat suffered against Bern… most people thought that the seasonal debut could have been not only the seasonal debut but also the potential playoffs final. And instead, the Lions didn’t make the playoffs… that’s because they were not consistent in any way. Then again, Zürich were not many times below the line… but they ended up below it at the worst possible time, after the last loss in Genève, when there was no more time to change things.
In the meaningless Ranking Round, the ZSC Lions earned 3 wins (1 after shootouts) and suffered 3 defeats. These results meant that – officially – Zürich ended their season 9th placed behind Fribourg Gottéron. In other words, only Davos and Rapperswil did worse than the Lions.
Let’s see few things that in our opinion worked well and few things that didn’t work at all.
The month of October
Regardless of the performances, the ZSC Lions earned 20 points in October. No one did better in the National League in that month. We mean, it looked like that one way or another Zürich were good enough to have a good season. That’s also because, even though the performances weren’t particularly brillant, the team was winning games… and that’s what great teams do.
During the Regular Season, Zürich had the 4th face-offs efficiency of the league. Only Fribourg Gottéron, Genève Servette and Bern were better. Among the players who took face-offs frequently, only Reto Schäppi (49.9%) and Victor Backmann (42.1%) had a negative percentage.
Ratio shots/shots against
Despite everything, the ZSC Lions have always been able to create scoring chances. In fact, the Lions are the ones who shot the most in the National League! Moreover, Zürich have been good also in terms of shots against… only Langnau, Bern and Fribourg Gottéron have been facing less shots than the Lions.
The ZSC Lions won 2 games out of 2 when shootouts were required to establish the winner. They had a 50.0% conversion rate that was the highest of the league. That’s not a surprise though… we mean, when it comes to talent on paper, the ZSC Lions weren’t – and still are – second to no one.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
When a team like Zürich finishes the Regular Season 9th placed – regardless of the fact that this season was extremely balanced – it’s a failure. Then again, it’s wrong to exaggerate… we’re only talking about sport, after all. A bad year can happen.
Overall, throughout the Regular Season, the ZSC Lions’ performances have rarely been good enough. Way too often, Zürich were not able to convince… when you enter a negative vortex and results are missing, it’s difficult to play champagne hockey, after all.
The ZSC Lions had only the 8th home record of the National League. 25 games, 14 wins, 11 losses. That’s not enough. Be it that the Hallenstadion is not a very attractive place for hockey… and fortunately the club will have a new arena in the near future. But nevertheless, a team like Zürich should be a steamroller at home!
Power-play & Penalty-killing
The ZSC Lions had the 9th power-play efficiency and the 9th penalty-killing efficiency of the league. That’s inexplicable. A talented team like the Lions, should be a steamroller during power-play situation and should be excellent penalty killer too. And instead, way too often, the Lions weren’t able to make the difference.
Change of coach
To hire Del Curto was a golden opportunity… even more so, considering that with Serge Aubin things were not going fantastically well. With hindsight, however, the Lions’ choice turned out to be wrong. Under Serge Aubin, Zürich earned 1.60 points on average per game (which was enough to finish the Regular Season 4th placed), under Del Curto instead the points on average per game dropped to 1.23.
THE 3 STARS OF THE SEASON
Maxin Noreau had a decent season, overall. He’s been solid and also very effective in the offensive zone. This is also evidenced by the fact that he finished the Regular Season as the 4th defenseman with most points and as the 1st one among defensemen import players.
He missed a good part of the season because of an injury that could also cost him the career. Roman Cervenka played 22 games during which he tallied 21 points and therefore was the best player of the team when it comes to points on average per game. Overall, probably the fans were expecting something more… but the way Roman can assist and set up his teammates is pure joy!
The level of his performances dropped as the season went on… and it’s understandable considering that this guy is only 22 years old. Initially though, Jérôme Bachofner was outstanding! He proved merciless in front of the net and was among the leaders of Zürich during the first part of the season. He’ll continue his career in Zug… best wishes!
THE SPECIAL MENTION
Things dind’t turned out as he expected and Kevin Klein’s performances were surely not as good as during the last playoffs. Anyway, he always did his job and his skills are undisputed. We reward him for this season… but mostly, we reward him with the “special mention” because we still remember the impressive playoffs animal he was last season!
THE SEASON IN NUMBERS – THE STATS
GOALS FOR & GOALS AGAINST
129 goals scored… not enough. 132 goals against… that’s too much. If we look at the chart, however, we can see something interesting. As a trend, Zürich conceded way too many goals during the first part of the games and instead scored more as the games went on. This means, anyway, that way too often Zürich were forced to chase their opponents… and that’s never a good thing.
SHOTS & SHOTS AGAINST
As we’ve already written before, Zürich had an excellent ratio shots / shots against. Also in this case, the chart helps us to see that the ZSC Lions shot more as the games went on…
SCORING & SAVING PERCENTAGE
Considering the roster, the ZSC Lions’ scoring percentage was catastrophic, to say the least. That’s one of the main reason why this team missed the playoffs. Why was the scoring percentage so low? Lack of self-confidence? Nervousness? Pressure? Probably little bit of all of that. When it comes to the saving percengage instead, it’s been good during the Regular Sesason.
POWER-PLAY & PENALTY-KILLING
We’ve talked about this already before… the ZSC Lions were not good enough during power-play situations and were not excellent penalty killers either.
The ZSC Lions had a decent puck possession percentage. This is a positive figure… even though, in the end, it didn’t make the difference.
Criticism from the fans are understandable. Yet, most of them were excited about this team on the eve of this season. And were excited also when Arno Del Curto was appointed the new first team coach.
Now it’s important to understand what went wrong. Considering how good this team was on paper… it’s almost unthinkable that the Lions played the Ranking Round. Yet, is this so shocking?
Regardless of everything, one should consider that there are also the opponents out there. Opponents who are more determined, combative and hungry more than ever before. Moreover, we can’t forget about the “shock” that a playoffs final like the one of last year can generate…
We talked about this few days ago…
Finally, let us not forget that last season, the Lions had a similar record during the Regular Season. We mean, there was already something wrong.
Now it’s time to think. It’s time to learn from the mistakes and time to correct them in view of the next season. There is a title to win back… right, Lions?
Enjoy your holiday, ZSC Lions!