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Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Elite League Season Predictions

Following on my my season preview of each of the ten teams in the Elite League here, are my predictions for the coming season. Things have changed a little since I wrote the team previews with some teams adding to their rosters, and others losing players who had previously signed.

I had originally seen the league seems to be split in to three groups; at the top the title contenders, a second group that should be competitive but not quite at the same level as those top teams and then the also rans at the bottom. With recent changes I now see two groups, with a single team sat somewhere in the middle.

I’ll start at the top where I expect Belfast, Coventry, Nottingham and following the signing of Rob Globke, Sheffield to be fighting it out for the title.  On paper Belfast are my favourites, they have great depth in talent and if they stay injury free and gel as a team I can’t see the title going anywhere else. Coventry have a lot of talent, five decent defensemen and eight top forwards, but after this the talent drops off in a big way. Any injuries and Blaze could struggle with depth. While Nottingham certainly appear to have the offensive talent, there are question marks again over their defence. In those big, close, title deciding games, both the Blaze and Giants look to have the edge defensively while still being having to firepower to score at the other end, this could be Nottingham’s undoing.  Originally I saw the Steelers as being a good team but a little off the top. The addition of Globke who scored well in juniors and has had a career in the NHL, AHL and DEL definitely makes the Steelers a better team. If Mustukovs can produce the goods in goal, the Steelers have the strength in depth, even if not quite the same fire power as the other top teams to put together a title challenge.

At the other end of the table, I see newcomers Braehead and Dundee struggling to keep pace and likely to be propping up the table at the end of the season. Most of their players seem to be either inexperienced or from a lower standard (CHL rather than AHL) when compared to the top teams in the league. Braehead look stronger at the back if a little short of scoring power, so could spring a few surprises. I think both they can be competitive, but over the length of a full season I think both will lose more than they will win.  Perhaps the biggest difference is in the Brits these teams have, and it is likely to be this lack of strength in depth that will play the biggest toll as the season goes on. Dundee still look to have a couple of signings to make, what difference these will make to the make-up of the team remains to be seen, but I would still expect them to finish towards the bottom of the table.

Newcastle, Edinburgh and Hull could all be joining the Stars and Clan in a fight to avoid last place or could be pushing for a place in the top half of the table. All three of these teams still have players left to sign, and depending on who these signings are will likely have a large bearing on whether they finish mid-table or battle for the wooden spoon.

That leaves Cardiff. The Devils have a strong looking squad and appear to have improved on last season. However, so do the teams that finished above them and I don’t see them having the quality to be genuine title contenders. Cardiff do have decent depth in their line-up and in Matzka could have one of the signings of the season. If everything clicks they could be the surprise of the season, but on paper I see them as being a little short in overall talent compared to the top four, but much better that the rest of the teams in the league.

So, bearing in mind a number of squads are still to be completed as I write this, here is my prediction for the final league standings.

Belfast
Coventry 
Sheffield 
Nottingham 
Cardiff 
Braehead 
Hull 
Newcastle
Edinburgh
Dundee

The bottom five could be in any order, much depends on who the remaining signings are for those teams still with spots to fill. The title should go to Belfast, but Coventry have the talent to push them all the way. Sheffield could be there too if Mustukovs turns out to be a top goalie, otherwise it could be another mid-table finish for the Steelers behind Nottingham and Cardiff. The Devils could be this seasons dark horses. But anyway, my prediction is out, so everyone can laugh at me come the end of March when my prediction is proven to be wildly inaccurate.

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