“Won’t you help to sing, this song of freedom.
Cause all I ever had….redemption songs.
Bob Marley & The Wailers: “Redemption Song”
Sometimes it’s hard to find a song lyric for these previews that sums up the thrust of an article. But in Dundee this season, there’s only one word that sums up the aim of both the team and their new coach this season – and luckily it’s also the title of one of the greatest songs of all time.
This season in Dundee sees Marc Lefebvre, a coach who had a nightmare year (at least while in the EIHL) last season, pair with a team for whom 2014/15 couldn’t have gone any worse, as they both bid to repair reputations that might have taken something of a kicking recently. A coach and a team both looking to write their own Redemption Songs, if you will.
So who are the players Marc Lefebvre has chosen for the job, and what does this Dundee team look like?
#33 Vlastimil Lakosil, #31 Craig Holland
The Dundee Stars under Lefebvre bear almost no relation whatsoever to that of last season, starting in net, where the beleaguered Marc Cheverie is gently and firmly taken out behind the back of the barn and disposed of in favour of Czech veteran Vlastimil Lakosil. The 36-year-old will be one of the oldest players in the league this year and by far the oldest netminder, but comes with a strong pedigree after playing his whole career in Eastern Europe.
Last year the 5’11, 180lb native of Uherske Hradiste backstopped his HK Nitra team to 2nd in the Slovakian Tipsport Extraliga while also playing in the Champions’ Hockey League – Lakosil has also won the Continental Cup with MHC Martin in his career, too. He’s small and strong and plays a somewhat unorthodox scrambling style which isn’t always the prettiest but is very effective indeed.
He’ll be backed up by the Sheepdog, Craig Holland, who, like all EIHL backups, will be expected to be injury cover and spot duty but will likely not play much outside that.
#2 Kevin Hart, #14 David Turon, #17 Jason Gray, #19 Sam McCluskey, #27 Cory Pritz, #65 Craig Moore.
The Stars D is the kind of D you’d expect built by a team that’s not able to go out and recruit the stars the big-budget teams can…like Edinburgh and to a slightly lesser degree Fife Marc Lefebvre has had to concentrate on finding solid players and the odd hidden gem to staff the Stars blueline.
In Czech D David Turon he might have found one-the 6’2, 195lb offensive blueliner scored 12 goals with KH Sanok in Poland last season and has split his time between North American minor leagues and European leagues comparable to the EIHL, performing consistently wherever he’s played. He’ll likely be the key offensive producer.
Behind Turon is a mix of solid but slightly unspectacular North Americans and eager young British players…Kevin Hart is probably the pick of the bunch among them with one season in the ECHL with the Elmira Jackals and a solid NCAA career in Providence. Jason Gray and Cory Pritz come from the Canadian university system looking to make their mark on the pro ranks, although Gray has shown flashes of offensive ability too with the SPHL’s Columbus Cottonmouths.
The young Brits are the most intriguing on this team though – Sam McCluskey has been on the edge of making the leap to the top rank of Brit D the past few seasons, while Craig Moore returns to the EIHL from North America, where he was a team-mate of Coventry’s David Clements and part of the leadership group there, as well as captain of GB u20s, too. Not a bad resumé for a youngster. Expect to see him look to make a mark this year, too.
#11 Curtis Leinweber, #16 John Dolan, #18 Justin Faryna, #20 Mikael Lidhammar, #21 Bobby Chaumont, #25 Brett Switzer, #28 Riley Wetmore, #54 Lou Dickenson, #93 Doug Clarkson
This is a workmanlike forward group for the Stars, although the top line has been assembled from the ghost of Scottish EIHL teams past, with Curtis Leinweber and Bobby Chaumont, who’ve both been free-scoring players in their EIHL careers, joining the lightning-quick Lou Dickenson in a reunion of two former Edinburgh Capitals and one Fife Flyer/Braehead player for a full set of Scottish hockey team bingo on the top line. Dickenson in particular is an impressive pickup for Dundee – a big sniper who has been prolific in Denmark, Italy, Finland and Norway since his brief stay with Edinburgh in 2006/07.
Leinweber, too, comes back to the EIHL hoping to repeat his form with the Edinburgh Capitals which saw him score 28 goals in 13/14-he’ll act as the playmaker to Dickenson and player/assistant-coach Bobby Chaumont, who is a consistent 25-goal-scorer in the EIHL.
Behind this top three is Doug Clarkson, one of the more impressive stories in Cardiff last season, hoping he doesn’t suffer 2nd-season-syndrome in Dundee, with Dundee’s perennial stalwart, the quietly effective John Dolan, joining him. An intriguing signing is Mikael Lidhammar, a speedy Swede who’s played SHL hockey with his hometown Lulea squad and spent the past few years in the Allsvenskan with Oskarshamn. North Americans Brett Switzer and Riley Wetmore provide a mix of creativity and speed at the centre position, while gritty forward Justin Faryna will handle the pugilistic duties where required and hope to add a little scoring touch, too.
This is not the most star-studded forward group – however it is a very intriguing one – that top line has the potential to be one of the better ones in the league and the emphasis appears to be aimed towards speed rather than size – although Clarkson and Faryna will be more than capable of bringing the gritty play where required. It’s very much a case of seeing what hidden diamonds Lefebvre can coax into the light, and whether or not the likes of Leinweber, Dickenson and Clarkson can continue their impressive showings in the EIHL so far. If they can, then the Stars could be an enticing prospect to watch next year.
PLAYER TO WATCH – Lou Dickenson (F)
The British-Canadian forward is one of the more exciting signings to hit the EIHL this season – he’s a speedy, exciting sniper with good size and skill and a lightning shot, and will be the Stats’ go-to forward. In his last visit to the EPL he scored 23 points in 22 games, and Marc Lefebvre will be hoping he can score at a similar rate this season. If he can, then it will take the Stars a long way to ensuring they’re no longer the EIHL’s basement club.
POTENTIAL LINES (F)
Lou Dickenson – Curtis Leinweber – Bobby Chaumont
Doug Clarkson – Riley Wetmore – Mikael Lidhammar
John Dolan – Brett Switzer – Justin Faryna
POTENTIAL LINES (D)
David Turon – Jason Gray
Kevin Hart – Cory Pritz
Sam McCluskey – Craig Moore
COACH – Marc Lefebvre (2nd season)
Last year was one to forget for Lefebvre. Given the keys to his own EIHL team for the first time in Coventry, the Canadian found a star in Brian Stewart but couldn’t find the consistency or performance expected of a coach at one of the EIHL’s more demanding jobs expectation-wise, and found himself out of the EIHL by December. This year he has his chance to change the script and build at a team and environment arguably more suited to his development – the expectations are lower and the fans slightly more forgiving.
That’s not to say that he won’t be wanting to take the Stars as far as he possibly can – indeed now more than ever he has the motivation not only of wanting to prove the doubters wrong but repay the faith shown by the Stars owners in what some have seen as a risky appointment – after receiving a bloody nose in his first EIHL coaching role this is a chance for Lefebvre to pick himself back up off the canvas and get back into the fight.
For the Stars, nothing can be as bad as last year’s horror-show of a season. In Marc Lefebvre they have a coach motivated to come back from his own personal bad year, and leading the Stars back up the table would be an excellent way to do that.
In fact, the Stars and Lefebvre are a perfect fit this year-both looking for redemption after a struggle-filled 14/15. In the roster he’s built Lefebvre has certainly given Stars fans cause for hope.
This will certainly be a year where Dundee and Lefebvre will come together at the perfect time. Just how fruitful that pairing will be in the East of Scotland, only time will tell.