In 1886, Scotland’s most famous author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a famous novel about an outwardly respectable individual who, for reasons of science and experimentation tries to make the best of himself, but suffers from a fatal flaw that he can’t resolve, and which ultimately destroys him.
In 2012/13, Scotland has its own hockey version of the beleaguered Dr. Jekyll in Glasgow’s Braehead Clan.
The Clan, as I wrote earlier this season, are doing absolutely everything right off the ice. Growing crowds, excellent fan relations and a genuine buzz make them a model for teams to follow. Their recruitment during the off-season caused great excitement as fans and pundits picked them as the class of the Gardiner Conference. Jordan Krestanovich could do no wrong.
On the ice, though, the Clan are struggling. A team that promised so much at the start of the season, a team that had the pundits all claiming it would roll over the rest of the Gardiner conference and challenge for the league title (yup, including me) and a team that caused one hell of a buzz around Glasgow.
Now, they’re sitting 3rd in their conference and sixth in the league, with the worst goals against average and save percentage in the league being boasted by Garrett Zemlak in net, and a defensive unit that appears about as effective at stopping attacks as a picket fence is at stopping a hurricane. Mitch Maunu is injury-prone, Steve Birnstill and Matt Hanson have been unimpressive at their own end despite scoring points at the other, and Kevin Phillips and Sam Zajac, while trying manfully, perhaps have struggled to reach the required level.
Scoring is one area the Clan don’t have a problem. Jade Galbraith and Ash Goldie are both in the league top 20 and seven of their forwards are in double figures in points already, which isn’t bad at all. However, being a forward for the Clan must feel like a Sisyphean task as any progress made upward is dragged back by the millstone of an underperforming D.
So, what’s Jordan Krestanovich’s solution?
Signing a power forward and another EIHL team’s castoff d-man, of course.
Now, don’t get me wrong, Jesse Schultz looks very useful on the forward line. Impressive stats of 252 AHL points and over a point a game in Italy and the CHL mean that he’ll add even more offensive punch to a team that’s very useful going forward as it is. But he’ll have to be defensively responsible too, especially as that’s an area that the Clan seem to lack-players like Galbraith, Goldie and Robert Farmer are great as long as the play is heading toward the opposition net but occasionally need a map to find their own end. Schultz can’t be the same.
And on defence, the Clan sign Martin Tuma-a player whose main impact on the EIHL this season so far appears to have been on the concession stands at the NIC and local hostelries. Derided as unfit and slow by the Nottingham fanbase on his signing, the Czech hasn’t done much to impress since then due to a combination of injuries and a slow start. Clan fans are pointing to the Panthers saying that he looked a “useful stay-at-home D man”…but the obvious question is “if he’s that useful, why did the Panthers release him so easily?”
The main problem with this Clan team on the ice is that, just like the doctor mentioned in the story at the beginning of this article, it’s hideously unbalanced and prone to shooting itself in the foot, letting its flaws overtake its very real positive qualities. That needs to change immediately, and it appears that, while Jordan Krestanovich is taking steps to do so, he’s focusing his energies in the wrong place-certainly there are probably one or two Clan Dmen thankful they still have a job right now.
If things continue the way they have been doing in Glasgow on ice, then for the Clan’s sake, maybe some of them need to be preparing to look elsewhere. Otherwise the great work done by Kirsty Longmuir and her team off the ice is in danger of being wasted by those on it.