“I”m not looking for the best players, Craig. I’m looking for the right ones.”
Herb Brooks: “Miracle”
Here’s a scenario for you to imagine this Monday afternoon.
A team that started the season with such promise is winless in the month of October, having conceded 30 goals in 6 games while only scoring 13, and have only won one of their eight games against Erhardt Conference opponents. Goals have been hard to come by all season if you’re not one of two players-as you go into a weekend against 2, these two have scored more goals between them (22) than the other 15 players in the team combined (18), and after a nightmare weekend against the equally beleaguered Cardiff Devils last weekend that saw the Blaze outscored 9-3 and put in a dismal performance on Sunday night in Cardiff that left coach Matty Soderstrom feeling “very disappointed”, the time, it appears, has come for the Blaze to make a change.
The problems have been many. Secondary scoring has failed to score, lines have rarely looked hugely settled and players that were heavily hyped before the start of the season have drawn fans’ ire for not being as impressive as they’d been told (or, perhaps, providing the blood-and-thunder style that Blaze fans seem to love so much).
But it seems that the fans, too, are picking the wrong targets. Despite being amongst the most hard-working forwards on the squad and having the same number of points as current fan favourite Cale Tanaka, Brian McMillin seems to be the current favourite target of the Skydome crowd’s ire, with forum posts saying amongst other things that McMillin is the “worst player ever seen in a Blaze jersey” (which aside from being totally wrong tells me that they managed to avoid the horrors of Corey LeClair, David Kaczowka or Peter Nylander).
And looming on the horizon are a nightmare pairing of games-Nottingham away (a team who’ve won 42 of 48 games in 2013) and big-budget Sheffield at home.
Clearly, something has to change. The fanbase is screaming for a top offensive defenceman. Or failing that, a scoring forward.
And so the team act-they bring in a player who rejoins the team after scoring 8 goals in 26 last season-a player who is greeted with a cautious but not overwhelming sense of optimism. And the fans wait, and watch, and hope.
This was the Blaze last week on the (re)signing of Gerome Giudice. A signing that was Matty Soderstrom trying to get his team back on track after a nightmarish October
This Monday, after two of the best performances of the season, Matty Soderstrom already looks vindicated. Giudice skated on a line with Ashley Tait and Adam Henrich throughout the weekend, and appeared to provide the team with a shot of pure adrenaline that was reflected in every shift both by the man himself and those around him. The Blaze looked more balanced than they have at any point this season, more committed, and a large part of this was down to the efforts of the man from Acton, Ontario. After stepping off the plane on Thursday Giudice had himself a dream return in Nottingham by getting an assist only eight minutes in and forming instant chemistry with his linemates as the Blaze pulled out a win on penalty shots.
On Sunday, though, Giudice shone-breaking the deadlock in a tight 0-0 game and being a key part of the Blaze’s high-pressure forecheck.
The key effect Giudice has had if this weekend is any indication, though, isn’t one on the scoresheet. With Mike Henrich moving back to defence the Blaze suddenly look a lot more balanced, and more to the point they appeared rejeuvenated and playing like a team that put the expensively-assembled Sheffield Steelers to shame on Sunday night.
This leads us to another point-Giudice is the first (and so far only) new arrival to Blaze since the start of the season. Sheffield, meanwhile, have already added four new players in Ilpo Salmivirta, Phil Hill, Nate DiCasmirro and Rob Sirianni and cut one in the shape of Rylan Galiardi, and as yet none of the four new additions have had a lasting effect (indeed Salmivirta has already departed, and while Sirianni and DiCasmirro have added to the offensive threat, they’ve seemingly done nothing to solve the main problem with the Steelers-their defensive porousness)
Granted, one weekend does not make a season, and nor is it an acceptable sample to say definitively that one recruitment strategy is “right” and one is “wrong”.
But what it does show already is that sometimes, you can have all the money in the league, and as many chances to recruit players as you can, but all you need is the “right” one.
On early evidence, Giudice may be the “right one” for Blaze. Sheffield, on the other hand, are still looking.