I am very excited about the team we have assembled and I think it is a massive compliment that many people view our team as the league favorite – it means we did our job in summer recruitment! Every coach has their own strategy on how to build their team. My style requires 2000 (I was at 1768 in August when I left) minutes a month on the cell phone and countless emails and Skype calls. I firmly believe that being patient and diligent has its rewards.
Our recruitment strategy aimed to addresses three of our biggest weaknesses while maintaining our overall team culture. Last season, our powerplay needed improvement, we lacked grit and did not have enough depth to fight through injuries. In spite of that, we had more wins and goals than any team in Giants history, conceded fewer goals and had the least amount of losses in team history. However, I know that success in Belfast is not measured in stats but in trophies.
In order to improve our powerplay, we added an additional offensive defenseman who can play significant minutes. This will anchor two units and allow us to play a more aggressive style. Much of the structure of the powerplay comes from the coach and in order to improve my own skill set, I attended coaching clinics and “think tanks” over the summer and learned a lot.
Our Staff has used the full five months of the off-season to address how we can improve our organization. One of the main concerns we had was our overall lack of team grit and I believe we have addressed that. The games in March/April fundamentally changed from the first six months. The games were more physical and tightly contested and the referees (to their credit) let us play. As a result, our team did not have the ability to get the “dirty” goal. This year, we have a lot of players who are known for their passion and determination. I know these players will make the Giants fans proud of their team.
The previous two seasons, the Belfast Giants organization has lost the regular season title by one point. That is two wins away from back-to-back titles. One win a season. Would our team have won another game last season if we had an extra player ready to play? The problem with injuries is that unless the player is out for the season, you cannot easily replace them. Belfast does not have the ability to call players up consistently from the EPL like the English teams can. Would Cardiff have won the league if they had a low cost player who could have played for Tyler Michel when he was out? Sheffield won the league but also had very few injuries. When we were without Seeley, Hoffman, Mason, Benedict, Garside and Colin Hemingway would one more player have helped us when we played in Edinburgh and lost a game? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, it would not have hurt. As a result, Todd and I adjusted our budget to include an extra import. Instead of signing one player, we broke that large salary into two players. The goal of adding Ryan Crane is simple: one win.
I am ready to get back to work. There are a lot of good teams around the league and I am looking forward to the competition.